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WHY WE RISE is a call to action

Asking you to join a movement to break through barriers and defy old assumptions about mental health and the many related social conditions that compound problems and hurt our communities. It is critical that young people have an opportunity to share their stories about the impact of mental health in their daily lives, and to move to the center of the conversation about access to adequate mental healthcare. We believe it is necessary to challenge the silence, stigma, and shame that so often accompanies mental health struggles.

There is an epidemic of loneliness...

There is an epidemic of loneliness...15.08% of youth in America experienced a major depressive episode in 2022, a 1.24% increase from last year’s dataset according to studies done by Mental Health America.  Suicide rates increased more than 60% between 2007 and 2008 in America, with suicide becoming the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24.

This is a time to change the narrative.

Through your poems, we will change the public conversation and discover new solutions. Let’s rise.

The Why I Rise project will look at the complexity of the mental health crisis from multiple youth perspectives. We invite you to share your personal struggles, outside pressures, and stories of your resilience and support..


poems will remain off the list until reviewed by Why I Rise judges and winners are announced.


April 2 - May 10



May 23




For this competition, respond with your own two to three minute poem to the question:Why I Rise …

Entires will be judged based on three criteria:

Is your poem memorized and delivered with strong conviction?


Is your poem original and exciting? Does your poem represent a unique perspective - something only you could write?


Does your poem deal with this very specific time in history? Does it offer advice, solutions, or input about how to move forward?


Winners will be selected by a group of diverse, dynamic artists whose work centers around mental health. Judges will be selecting from a pool of the top 30 winners: 20 chosen by popular vote, and 10 Get Lit staff selects.

Six individual winners will receive a $1,000 cash award: Five from Southern California & One National/International youth poet.

Six honorable mentions will each receive $100.  Final 12 winners will be featured on the Why I Rise website and in national and international media coverage.

Six individual winners will receive a $1,000 cash award Five from Southern California & One National/International youth poet.

Six honorable mentions will each receive $100.  Final 12 winners will be featured on the Why I Rise website and in national and international media coverage.

this year's judges

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“Why I Rise” is a collaboration between Get Lit - Words Ignite and the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health. For questions, comments, or concerns, please email The Why I Rise poetry contest for Los Angeles County is a partnership of WE RISE and Get Lit since 2019.VANS, a major supporter of youth spoken word programming, is helping amplify the work by expanding the contest worldwide.

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About get Lit

Get Lit – Words Ignite fuses classic and spoken word poetry to increase teen literacy on the page and in visual media. We cultivate enthusiastic learners emboldened to inspire social consciousness in diverse communities. Get Lit’s poetry and film curriculum engages young people by providing a creative outlet, community, and real-life work experience, transforming students into artists, activists, scholars, and stars.

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Why I Rise features an online spoken word and hip hop competition.There are no wrong answers. Be specific and as detailed as possible about your thoughts and experiences and of course, BE CREATIVE! Choose and complete one of the following prompts found below in the form of a 2/3-minute poem or rap.


  • I choose to rise because…
  • How has mental health impacted your family, community, or friends?
  • Your experience/reflection around mental health?
  • How does mental health manifest in your life in terms of struggle or healing?
  • If you could create a metaphor around mental health what and why?
  • One thing we should consider about mental health is...
  • What we can do to better address mental health?
  • When, where, and with whom is your mental health strongest?
  • What does a world where people are cared for and healed look or feel like?
  • Any topic of your choice that addresses the issue of mental health!

please be
sure to

  • Keep your poem under three minutes
  • Film your poem against a solid background
  • Make sure your video has good lighting
  • Eliminate background noise


Check out the writing prompts! They have all of the information you need to know, as well as the types of stories we are looking for. First and foremost, we want to hear your story.

Submissions are closed for this year’s Why I Rise Competition.
Please check back in April of next year.

Want to submit?

Tell us more about you, your Submission, and your creative goals!
Let’s start a conversation.
share your story

Your gift helps Get Lit transform students into artists, activists, scholars, and stars. It ignites classrooms around the world!

We can add a photo here - workshop best strategy forward for this module

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